Injury is derailing Austin Rivers’ grand Knicks plans



Austin Rivers talked a big game about playing for his father’s former team, saying he wanted to be part of something special and make the franchise “great again.”

Unfortunately for the combo guard, he has so far been very limited in that endeavor, and seems likely to miss the early part of the season with a right groin injury.

On Monday, coach Tom Thibodeau said the 28-year-old Rivers, whose father Doc is now coaching the 76ers, still has yet to return to practice, an ominous sign with the season set to begin Wednesday in Indiana against the Pacers. He missed all four preseason games and was hurt early on in training camp.

“The groin thing is still bothering him,” Thibodeau said.

There was some good injury news, though. Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. (left quad) and Frank Ntilikina (left Achilles), along with center Nerlens Noel (left knee), have returned from minor injuries. Forward Omari Spellman (right knee) is still out.

Austin Rivers

Thibodeau wouldn’t reveal his opening night starting lineup, but he did say that “we have a pretty good idea” who they will be, and what the rotation will look like.

“But that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone,” he said. “Obviously over the course of a season you need everyone, and particularly this year under these circumstances, quality depth is important and I feel that we have that.”

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett appear locks to start, and Elfrid Payton seems like a smart bet at the point despite rookie Immanuel Quickley’s impressive preseason. The other two spots remain uncertain.

This season, sans fans in most arenas, will be very different. There will only be essential personnel at Knicks games at the Garden at the outset due to COVID-19. Without fans, there may not be as much of a home whistle.

“You’re just trying to help them along,” Thibodeau joked about the officials. “No, I think it’s all the same from that standpoint. It’s probably a little different because no one’s there, so you can hear everything.

“In some ways, it’s interesting, hearing the players talk and hearing the rim and things like that. It’s a different vibe to it.”

As a formality, the Knicks announced they have picked up the third-year contract option on Barrett and fourth-year contract option on wing Kevin Knox ahead of Monday’s deadline. The move was expected.


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